Santa Ynez aims to leave Channel League, SS

Santa Ynez football players watch the coin flip before a game in 2019. Santa Ynez had worked to leave the Channel League and CIF Southern Section for the upcoming school year, but the move was blocked by the league's other athletic directors and principals, Santa Ynez AD Ashley Coelho said.

Santa Ynez High School is leaving the Channel League and CIF Southern Section, though not as soon as it had hoped.

The school's athletic director, Ashley Coelho, said the Pirates' athletic programs had worked to enter the CIF Central Section, leaving the Channel League and CIF Southern Section, and join the Central Coast Athletic Association for the upcoming school year.

The CCAA voted unanimously to accept Santa Ynez in a 13-0 vote, however Channel League principals and athletic directors voted against the move, Coelho said.

"Now we will be with the Channel League for one last year, 2021-2022," Coelho said in an email. "Santa Ynez will work closely with (the) CIF Central Section and CCAA in the fall to get this approved."

Coelho said her school's "coaches, athletes and community will be bummed that this transition wasn't successful this year, but (principal) Michele (Borges) and I tried our best to make this happen for our students. On a positive note, to everyone in our community, coaches and athletes, Santa Ynez will be officially making the move to CIF Central Section for the 2022-2023 school year as soon as the current league cycle for Channel League has terminated at the end of 2021-2022."

Coelho said re-leaguing discussions for the football association begin Thursday and re-leaguing discussions for Channel League will happen in the middle of the fall.

"Santa Ynez will be proposing to not re-enter a new re-league cycle with the football association or Channel League for the 2022-2023 school year, so we can pursue moving to the Central Section," Coelho said. "I want to personally thank every AD in the CCAA for allowing me to attend their AD meeting last week and an even bigger thank you to (Santa Maria High AD) Brian Wallace for his guidance through this process. I'm excited to work with the CCAA over the next year to ensure our transition to the Mountain and Ocean leagues are smooth. I appreciate the time and effort the 13 schools spent helping Santa Ynez, and we look forward to joining them in 2022-2023!" 

The CCAA consists of Santa Maria Valley and San Luis Obispo County schools that moved to the CIF Central Section, leaving the Southern Section, in the 2018-19 school year. Santa Ynez, Cabrillo and Lompoc opted to stay in the Southern Section and joined the Channel League, ending long league ties between the Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County schools. 

Lompoc and Cabrillo are not actively pursuing a move to the Central Section.

"We have not explored a possibility of a move at this time," Lompoc AD Claudia Terrones said Tuesday. 

Coelho said Santa Ynez had received approval from the CIF Southern Section to be released if the Central Section approved the school in their section meeting set for Tuesday.

"After speaking with the Central Coast Athletic Association ADs and (Central Section) commissioner Ryan Tos, it sounded really promising they were going to accept us and rally behind Santa Ynez," Coelho said. "The CCAA voted 13-0 to accept us for the 2021-2022 school year. Channel League Principal's and AD's voted to not release Santa Ynez and now we will be with Channel League for one last year, 2021-2022."

Coelho says there are many reasons for Santa Ynez to head to the Central Section.

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Adding Santa Ynez would allow for an "evening out of the leagues, creating 7 teams in the Mountain League and 7 teams in the Ocean League," Coelho said.

Entry into the Central Section, Coelho added, would allow for future equity options "via partnership and collaboration options with the schools in these leagues as they are realigned every single year based on the strength and depth of each sports program."

Coelho also said that, with 830 students, Santa Ynez would have "a more realistic opportunity to be competitive in the Mountain and Ocean leagues."

Also, "Our unique geographical location has always presented a challenge to appropriately match Santa Ynez High School with leagues that have similar sized schools," she added, "and the option for re-leaguing every year is a better fit for our school, compared to locking in with Channel League for another four years."

Cabrillo, Lompoc and Santa Ynez have made for an odd fit with the Channel League. The football programs at Lompoc and Santa Ynez have been able to compete with the Channel League teams, though Cabrillo hasn't won a football game in three years. The Santa Barbara schools -- San Marcos, Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara High -- have consistently been stronger in sports like boys and girls tennis, boys and girls water polo, cross country, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball. 

The CCAA schools have been mostly pleased with their move to the CIF Central Section. Schools have found success in multiple sports and there appears to be more competitive equity in league play and in the playoffs. Schools have also benefitted from maintaining longstanding league rivalries and less travel for league matches and playoff contests. 

Last year, Channel League schools were set to shift to a new football alignment with the top Channel League teams playing the top Pacific View League teams, which resulted in a school like Lompoc having league football games against three Oxnard schools, Pacifica, Rio Mesa and Oxnard High. The coronavirus pandemic, though, threw a wrench in those plans and the original Channel League format stuck.

The CCAA consists of St. Joseph, Santa Maria, Pioneer Valley, Righetti, Orcutt Academy, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, Mission Prep, Atascadero, Templeton, Paso Robles and Morro Bay. Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Cabrillo had long been a member of the Los Padres League or Northern League with many of the CCAA schools.

Messages left with Mark Swanitz, the principal at Cabrillo High who was previously at Santa Ynez, and Gary West, Cabrillo's AD, were not returned before this story published.

The CIF Central Section's office is located in Porterville. The Central Section mainly has schools in the San Joaquin Valley and Eastern Sierra region. 

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